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Councillor defends shots tribute to hunger striker's mother

Masked men kneel after firing shots over the remains of Peggy O'Hara in Derry city on Wednesday night
Seamus McKinney

Derry councillor, Gary Donnelly has defended his presence at a republican tribute to Peggy O’Hara, mother of INLA hunger striker Patsy O’Hara, during which shots were fired.

A masked man fired a volley of three shots over Mrs O’Hara’s coffin as her remains returned to her home in Derry on Wednesday night following her death at Altnagelvin hospital.

Mrs O’Hara was given a military tribute with a four-woman colour party accompanying her remains as they were brought from a chapel of rest in Derry’s William Street on Wednesday evening.

When the funeral cortege reached Mrs O’Hara’s home at Templegrove in Derry, three armed and masked men – one armed with the SKS rifle and two with pistols – took up positons beside her coffin. The man carrying the rifle fired off three shots before all three knelt briefly before moving off.

A small crowd was present, including independent councillors, Gary Donnelly and Paul Gallagher. Mr Donnelly’s presence at the incident has been criticised by East Derry DUP MP, Gregory Campbell.

Mr Campbell said he believed the Derry councillor was in breach of a declaration he signed as a candidate when he ran for election to Derry city and Strabane district council.

The DUP MP said: "There are a number of things; number one the anti-terror legislation that prevails that includes councillors as well as other members of the public and also, of course, the code of conduct for local councillors because Gary Donnelly is a councillor in Londonderry and Strabane."

Mr Donnelly rejected the criticism, saying he attended the removal of Mrs O’Hara’s remains to pay tribute to her and had no prior knowledge that shots would be fired over her coffin.

"I have always had great admiration for Peggy. She watched her son starve to death in protest against Britain’s criminalisation policy. She took up the mantle of her son and campaigned for prisoner and civil rights," he said.

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